NEW DELHI: Shared river waters and its joint management to develop the region is likely to be the highlight of the upcoming bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina slated for September 6.
river water sharing treaty with Bangladesh will not be the focus during the talks as it remains a contentious issue given the differences between the Centre and the Mamata Banerjee government over the issue.
The Bangladesh government has instead decided to move over to work on a larger scheme of joint water sharing and water management mechanism between the two countries. The two neighbours have 54 rivers in the region that are common to people on both sides of the border.
The two leaders are likely to focus on reaching agreement on other big rivers like the Muhuri (flows out of Tripura) and Feni (in Tripura)-Kushiyara (in Bangladesh) and also on the renewal of the Ganga Water Treaty that was signed in 1996 and is up for renewal in 2026.
With the possibility of a water treaty being finalized during Modi and Hasina governments, both governments are looking at information sharing regarding common water resources, data sharing on floods and jointly managing water-related natural disasters like floods and cyclones common to the region.
The recent floods in Assam and its contiguous area in Bangladesh, Sylhet, last June and July caused similar sufferings for people on both sides of the border and hence a common approach will benefit both countries.
As a prelude to the Modi-Hasina meeting next month, the Joint River Commission (JRC) started deliberations here on Tuesday. It was the panel’s first meeting since 2010. Secretary-level meeting of the JRC on Tuesday, will be followed up by ministerial-level talks on Thursday.
According to sources in Dhaka, Bangladesh will raise the long-awaited Teesta issue at the JRC meeting, apart from finalizing a framework agreement of six common rivers — Monu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar — besides issues relating to the renewal of the Ganges water sharing treaty.
At the meeting, the two sides are expected to finalize a joint study on utilization of the Ganga waters and an agreement on the withdrawal of water from Kushiyara river, according to sources in Dhaka. They added that a MoU on sharing of data on the flow of water in the rivers flowing in India’s northeast region would also be finalized at the meeting.
Bangladesh foreign ministry sources told TOI in Dhaka last month that, “Bangladesh is keen to continue the engagement with India on river water sharing issues that is beneficial for both sides and even the Teesta issue can move forward if the talks continue.”